Antidepressants could cause Heart Defects in Babies Health Expert

British outlets have reported that the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Professor Stephen Pilling have warned that there is evidence showing antidepressants could be a serious risk to unborn babies, especially in the early stages of pregnancy, because of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

According to the Independent, Pilling said that SSRIs are linked to heart defects in babies. He added that there is a lot of advice given to women that they should not smoke or drink alcohol during their pregnancy but there are hardly any warnings that they should refrain from consuming antidepressants, which may carry greater risks.

The risk of a child being born with a heart defect is about two in 100, but the latest set of evidence suggests that, if a mother took an antidepressant during the early stages of pregnancy, then the chances very well double to four in 100.

“The available evidence suggests that there is a risk associated with the SSRIs,” said the expert adviser to NICE in an interview with BBC News. “We make a quite a lot of effort really to discourage women from smoking or drinking even small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy, and yet we’re perhaps not yet saying the same about antidepressant medication, which is going to be carrying similar – if not greater – risks.”

In its news article, the BBC cited Anna Wilson, who explained that doctors confirmed her son had a serious heart condition after her 20-week scan and would require heart surgery immediately. During the first five weeks of his life, he was connected to machines and will require open heart surgery. Physicians say he most likely will not live beyond the age of 40.

Four years before Wilson became pregnant, she was prescribed Citalopram to deal with her anxiety. The doctor had assured Wilson that it would be fine to take the drug while trying to get pregnant.

“We did meet with a cardiologist at one of the scan appointments, and he explained that as far as he knew there were no environmental factors and it wasn’t because of anything we as parents had done. It was just one of those things – couldn’t be prevented,” explained Wilson.

MyJoyOnline.com notes that Pilling said the guidance by doctors will be rewritten to reflect the evidence that SSRIs are linked to heart defects. He added that women who are not suffering from the severest form of depression, and are still taking antidepressants, are taking an unnecessary risk of hurting their baby.

In the United States, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), women are 2.5 times more likely to take antidepressants than men – overall, 11 percent of Americans over 12 years of age take antidepressants.